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Canada Issues Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program
On June 20, 2014, Canadian Ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander announced major changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and, at the same time, lifted the
moratorium on access to the program by the food services sector. The reforms have been anticipated since a series of media reports alleging abuse of both the program, and of foreign workers, by Canadian employers. These media reports and the ensuring controversy led to the imposition of the moratorium in April.
The program is being split into two distinct streams: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program.
The International Mobility Program (IMP)
The IMP will be overseen by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and will focus on high-skilled/high-wage employees who enter Canada pursuant to bilateral and multilateral agreements with other countries (e.g., GATS, NAFTA).
The New Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The TFWP will be overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and refers to those streams through which foreign workers enter Canada pursuant to a Labour Market Impact Assessment (formerly the Labour Market Opinion). Administration of the program will now be based on wages instead of the National Occupational Classification.
Highlights of the Changes
The Labour Market Impact Assessment will include a review of local job data, including employment insurance data, and require employers of high-wage temporary foreign workers to submit transition plans in order to reduce their reliance on the program. Employers will now be required to report on the success of their plan annually during each reapplication. No transition plan is required for short-duration occupations (120 days or less).
Labour Market Impact Assessment applications for high-wage, high-demand and short duration occupations (120 days or less) will now be processed in 10 business days.
Fees for program access will increase significantly. The Labour Market Impact Assessment fee will be $1,000.
Work Permits for low-wage positions will be reduced to one year. Employers of low-wage temporary foreign workers will be required to renew their Labour Market Impact Assessment annually.
A 10 percent cap will be imposed on low-wage temporary foreign workers, as a proportion of the workforce at each worksite. Employers that currently exceed the cap will have two years of phased-in targets, which began at 30 percent on July 1, 2014 and dropping to 20 percent on July 1, 2015. The government has indicated that this cap may be further reduced in the future.
No Labour Market Impact Assessments will be approved for jobs in accommodation, food services, or retail trade services in any region with an unemployment rate at-or-above 6 percent.
New enforcement measures include a new administrative monetary penalty regime with fines of up to $100,000 for noncompliance and misrepresentation. One in four employers who use the program will be inspected.
Visa Processing Delays Reported for India’s U.S. Consulates
In May 2014, India introduced a new thirty-party vendor for visa processing at its U.S. consulates, and there have been widespread delays as a result.
On May 21, the country transitioned from services offered by BLS International Limited to Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd. This change was prompted by customer service problems reported for BLS, which had its contract for less than 12 months. Among the problems noted were 70 passports that were stolen from the company’s San Francisco office.
However, service has not improved much under Cox & Kings Global Services. Multiple sources confirm that the San Francisco consulate, in particular, has had many transitional problems, leaving applicants frustrated and waiting. Applicants said they are having trouble setting up appointments using the vendor’s online web portal. Additionally, the system has provided incorrect tracking data, e.g., showing that a visa was ready when it was still in the processing phase.
Applicants are also seeing delays in getting their passports returned. Also, there is a two to three week delay when passports are sent to the Indian consulate for endorsement.
Travel Plans Canceled
Employers who plan to send U.S. employees to India should expect more setbacks in the coming months and have their workers submit applications a couple of months earlier. There could also be sudden changes to the application process and requirements.
Many travelers were forced to cancel their flights due to the delays. Some applicants have returned to the office for several days to get answers regarding their visas. Not only is the vendor taking a long time to process applications, but it has also lost some passports.
San Francisco Examiner reported that BLS left a backlog of 5,000 unprocessed visas when Cox & Kings took over. When coupled with a coding glitch for the new vendor’s online systems, the backlog has slowed operations, and the company’s employees are faced with more inquiries than they can handle.
When Cox & Kings first experienced problems, it announced that it was aware of the issues and would work diligently to get the backlog and emergency visa count reduced. It was projected that services would be running smoothly within two weeks of the transition but, as indicated by recent reports, this has not happened.
Letters of Undertaking Now Accepted for Visa Applications in the Philippines
The Philippines Bureau of Immigration now permits visa applicants to submit a Letter of Undertaking (LOU) that grants them a 60-day extension (from the date of filing) of the time required to submit supporting application documents.
Supporting documents often need to be notarized or legalized abroad and include family registers, marriage contracts, birth certificates and police and National Bureau of Investigation clearance. If these materials are not submitted within the 60-day period, an approved visa will be canceled.
LOUs must be completed using a prescribed form available on the Bureau of Immigration’s website. It includes open spaces to denote which documents need to be submitted at a later date within the grace period and the type of visa applied for, among other information. Only visa applications processed by the bureau can use an LOU.
The policy update gives employees on international assignment more time to acquire the proper documentation for their applications. Additionally, they will have their applications adjudicated while they continue to gather their materials.
Indonesia Announces Increased Visa-on-Arrival and Passport Fees
Application fees for passports and visas on arrival increased as of July 3, 2014, according to the Indonesian immigration office.
The cost for a seven-day visa on arrival went up to U.S. $15 from U.S. $10. The 30-day visa now has an application fee of U.S. $35 instead of U.S. $25. According to the
Jakarta Globe, the price for a 48-page passport increased to Rp 355,000 (about U.S. $30.34) from Rp 255,000. The electronic passport fee is unchanged at Rp 600,000.
Immigration officials said that the policy update follows 2014 government regulations regarding types of nontax revenue and the tax imposed on them under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.
“With this notification, we hope the public will understand the new costs they need to pay for the services,” the immigration office said in a statement.
Travel business news site TTG Asia reported that the changes were announced suddenly, with some travel businesses having to shoulder the additional costs for customers who already made arrangements. Some had received a notification the night before the increases were implemented. Employers should factor in the higher fees when planning assignments in Indonesia.
Elaine Martin is director, Immigration Services for
Paragon GeoImmigration, a provider of global business immigration services in more than 150 countries.
Republished with permission. © 2014 Paragon GeoImmigration.
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